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Try This Test to See Where You Rank on Strength / Muscle Stamina Spectrum

Stew smith

The Pullup / Dip Combo Test

Test Your Limits with This Advanced Upper Body Training Routine

Are you looking to take your upper body workout to the next level? If so, we have just the challenge for you. We've discovered a challenging yet quick workout that will push your upper body training to new heights in preparation for calisthenics and weighted calisthenics fitness tests. After trying various options, we've noticed that participants fall into three categories: New to Tactical Fitness, Intermediate (2 Groups), and Advanced Tactical Fitness for Upper Body Events:  

Here is the challenge:

Repeat 3 times
WV Pullups – max
WV Dips max
Pullups - max reps (unweighted)
Dips – max reps (unweighted)
(rest now with easy 2-3 min active rest)

Get ready to push your limits with this high-level training circuit. No rest is allowed as you power through pull-ups and dips, challenging yourself to lift nearly 100% of your body weight. Then add a 20-lb weight vest, and you've taken your strength training to a whole new level. These exercises are not for beginners, as most people cannot do pullups or dips. See where you rank on this 4-level spectrum.  

In a recent training session, a group of tactical athletes preparing to serve from various stages of training found an objective assessment in strength and endurance after incorporating this 4-exercise circuit into their routines. This is not your average workout routine. The results speak for themselves. Pullups are common throughout the military (weighted ones too). Dips are part of the Army’s special operations - Upper Body Round Robin Workout/test. 

The New to the Group Segment – Obviously, this is not a true beginner to fitness as the ability to do any pullups and dips requires a level of fitness most people do not have. Some new guys in this tactical athlete training group were found to have only completed a few weighted vest pullups or dips but could do more non-weighted pullups and dips. In a specific sample of this group, individuals could perform 1-2 weighted vest pullups and dips but could do 6-7 non-weighted pullups and dips immediately after. These results highlight not only conditioning levels, but also a combination of strength and endurance weaknesses. Notably, by the third set, this group was unable to do any weighted vest pull-ups or dips, and fewer than 50% of the non-weighted versions of their first set.

These findings are typical for those new to transitioning into more strength-endurance muscle stamina training. Understanding the impact of athletic history on fitness assessments is crucial in guiding individuals toward achieving their fitness goals. Though many come from strength training backgrounds, they are heavy, making calisthenics more difficult for high reps. 

Keep training and working on total volume with a few sets of weighted calisthenics. A cycle of strength training, calisthenics, and cardio will turn this group into the next levels below in about 12-16 weeks. Personally, I recommend focusing specifically on PST training right now with programs such as the Navy PST Phase 1 Program, Calisthenics and Cardio, USMC IFT / PFT Program, Army PFT/CFT Program, and the Air Force IFT/OFT Program if you are looking for a specific starting point to your goals:


Intermediate Segment A – The Intermediate Group A's performance in the first set, with weight vest pullups and dips hit the 7-9 range. They also scored in that range of the non-weighted pullups and dips immediately after the weight vest versions. But what happened in the last two sets? It's clear that conditioning played a larger role, causing a significant drop in performance. In fact, their performance decreased by 50% or more. They are moving in the right direction, but need to do a combination of training to include both strength and muscle stamina like with the Block Periodization Models: 


Intermediate Segment BIn Intermediate Segment B, individuals experienced similar outcomes to those in the above group. However, they were able to bounce back more quickly and did not suffer a significant decline in performance, with less than a 25% decrease. Despite this, neither group achieved double-digit performance levels. Both the weighted pullups and dips, as well as the non-weighted exercises, yielded similar results across all three sets. Conditioning and patience are kings. Trust the process and you will move in this direction soon. Depending on your athletic history, you may want to do more calisthenics and cardio (muscle stamina/endurance) building than strength, but you can add in Block Periodization models like these below that will focus on more reps and contain strength training as well: 

Advanced Segment – I consider "double digits" on this test part of an advanced group of tactical athlete candidates if you can perform 10 or more weighted vest and non-weighted vest pullups and dips for all three sets. However, some have taken their abilities to even higher levels. For example, some individuals have achieved 18 weighted vest pull-ups and 20 weighted vest dips, followed by 18 non-weighted pull-ups and 18 non-weighted dips for all three sets, with only a 10% reduction in performance on the last set. This above-average display of pound-for-pound strength, muscle stamina, and rapid recovery is the result of putting in the time.

Workouts that can help you get to and higher than this level can be easily done 2-3 times a week using the classic pyramid, superset, and max rep set workouts. Add a weight vest for half of the reps or more. 

Doing these max rep workouts can leave you tired and sore, but there's a way to recover faster and return to peak performance. A recent study has found that engaging in an easy jog or bike ride after a max-out workout can benefit those in the higher-performing groups. Active recovery has been shown to help muscles clear lactate faster, which can help prevent feelings of nausea, excessive fatigue, or cramping. But it's not just about keeping moving - your level of conditioning is also a key factor in your ability to recover quickly.

To truly optimize your recovery, effectively programming these workouts can be challenging to avoid burnout, fatigue, and injury - so be careful when pushing max reps. Hold that last one back if you think you are about to fail - especially with the weighted calisthenics reps. When training hard to get to the Advanced End of the Spectrum, recovery must be maximized through optimal sleep, nutrition, and hydration.

Give this a try and see where you stack on the spectrum. 

There is More To than You May Know

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus 
(16 weeks)

These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts 

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops 

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout
Air Force Special Warfare IFT / OFT / Selection Prep


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

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